MARK Molesley praised the attitude of striker Sam Surridge for the path he carved into the Cherries first team, insisting: “He’s never turned a challenge down.”

Molesley worked closely with the forward in his early years as a coach in the Cherries youth set-up.

The pair were also united at non-league Weymouth when Surridge arrived for a brief loan spell as a teenager in the 2015-16 season, where Molesley was winding down his playing career and moving into coaching.

At the time of writing, former Cherries midfielder Molesley is combining two roles as Cherries under-21s assistant boss and also Weymouth manager.

But having guided the Terras to back-to-back promotions, he is listed as the bookmakers’ favourite to become the new boss of League Two club Southend United.

Recalling his memories of a 17-year-old Surridge at Weymouth in Southern Premier, Molesley told the Daily Echo: “I was fortunate I was just starting to get in and around working at Bournemouth at the time.

“You could see that he (Surridge) just had this grit and this focus and tunnel-vision to score goals. He went into men’s football very early because he was a physical type of player.

“He went in and learnt to use that physicality at a very, very young age. One thing non-league will give you will be big, horrible, hard centre-halves and he went and was a nuisance to them from day one. He was 17 when he went in on loan so he went and used that physicality against big, strong people – bigger and stronger than him. He had to learn how to use it and work out how to get his chances and get his goals.”

After his stint at Weymouth, Surridge enjoyed four more loan spells, scoring goals at Poole Town, Yeovil Town, Oldham Athletic and Swansea City.

Now 22, the Ferndown-raised ace made his Premier League debut in February 2019 against Arsenal and netted his first senior goal for Cherries in last season’s FA Cup, which coincidentally was also a loss against the Gunners.

Surridge penned a new four-and-a-half year contract at Cherries in January.

“I think he’s had a fantastic experience and array of loan moves where he’s gone - Southern Prem, Conference South, League Two, Championship,” said Molesley.

“So he’s really had a great run and the thing you’ve got to love about Sam Surridge is he’s never turned a challenge down. Some people would turn their nose up and some of the lads sometimes have said ‘I’m not sure I want to go into non-league’ or ‘I’m not sure I want to go and do this’. That’s not the attitude.

“It’s almost like, go and use the platform to get experience and earn their stripes but also build their profile.”

He added: “Sometimes they need to do that because league managers don’t always trust under-21s, under-18s football as much as they do men’s football because they feel the competitive men’s football is more likely to match their type of football.

“Sometimes you’ve got go on loan to access that next loan move and that’s what Sam Surridge has done.

“By going in and proving himself at that level, he then got himself up to the next level and then the next level after that and then the next level after that and now he’s in our first team.

“So you’ve got to take your hat off to someone there who backed themselves to go in, earn his stripes at the more unfashionable end of football to really get that experience, build his profile and that’s exactly what he’s done.”